Every once in a while, an actor with a breakout role will come along and capture the attention of both moviegoers and the people behind the films. Soon, you can find that same actor headlining films at festivals as well as scoring top billing on blockbusters.
For 2011, that actor was undoubtedly Michael Fassbender, who wowed the art-house crowd in 2008 with “Hunger” and found wider audiences a year later with Quentin Tarantino’s “Inglourious Basterds” as the British Lieutenant Archie Hicox, who reserves a circle of hell for people who waste good scotch.
This past year, Fassbender became a superstar. He helped lead a brand-new team of mutants to box-office success as a young Magneto in “X-Men: First Class,” and then delivered critically praised performances in “Jane Eyre,” “A Dangerous Method” and “Shame,” for which he’s receiving Oscar buzz.
That’s why we’ve named Michael Fassbender one of the actors we’re most thankful for this holiday season. We sat down with Fassbender and gave him a chance to look back on 2011 and tell us why a different year — 2007 — meant everything to him.
MTV: Every year at MTV, we choose a few actors that we’re most thankful for around Thanksgiving, and you’ve made the cut.
Fassbender: Have I really?
MTV: You have.
Fassbender: Nice one.
MTV: Obviously, a couple years back, when “Inglourious” hit, especially, that was a big moment for you, but it feels like this year has to be professionally the most satisfying year.
Fassbender: No, I got to say, for me, definitely 2007 changed my life.
Fassbender: Yeah, Steve McQueen gave me an opportunity, a possibility to show some sort of capability in my profession. It was coming at a point when we were about to go into a recession. That was going to affect this business as much as any business — less jobs for less actors. For him to take a risk on an unknown in a lead role, it changed my life, really. From that, I had all these amazing experiences with Andrea Arnold, Quentin Tarantino, Steven Soderbergh, Cary Fukunaga, David Cronenberg, Ridley Scott.
MTV: It feels like this is where it all bears fruit. The seeds that were planted then, now it all starts to come out.
Fassbender: Yeah, you start off and you just want to be working, so jobbing actors, you’re already thankful for that opportunity. To be in this position that I’m in now, it’s ridiculous. Somebody pull the plug on me now. I have to say I’m blessed. When I started out when I was 17, this was the pinnacle, to be working with people that I find inspiring, I can learn from. It’s a very privileged position.
MTV: Was there one particular moment in this year of 2011 that was the most surreal, the biggest high for you? A lot of premieres, a lot of production work, a lot of press. Was there one moment you can pinpoint?
Fassbender: Just lots of surreal moments. When I was sitting in a balcony in Venice — I’ve never been to Venice before — and I’m there with family and friends, and we’re like, “Wow, this is a trip, isn’t it?” We’re all sort of experiencing this together. You’re always sort of pinching yourself.
Being on a Quentin Tarantino set. When I was 18, I did a stage version of “Reservoir Dogs” with my friends, where I directed, produced, played Mr. Pink. I mean, I was totally green. I didn’t know what the hell I was doing, but I knew that with hard work and enthusiasm, things get done. So then to be sitting on set with him, I was like, “This is weird.” Already at the audition with him was strange, because he reads all the other parts. That was surreal.
To have this sort of reception we’ve had for both films in Venice, to be there with two films, all those things are pretty mad.
Check out everything we’ve got on “Shame.”
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